Opening This Week

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03242008_alexandra.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Apparently, less is more this week, as “Flawless” and “Priceless” both head to the big screen and work from minimalist Alexander Sokurov balances out over-the-top offerings like “Superhero Movie” and “21.”

Russian avant-garde director Alexander Sokurov’s melancholic drama landed itself a Palme D’Or nomination last year at Cannes. Set in a nameless, war-torn place that bares more than a passing resemblance to Chechnya, “Alexandra” has for its star veteran opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya, who plays an elderly woman who sets off to visit her grandson, a soldier stationed at the edge of a wasteland. In Russian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

Labeled by some a “Sideways” for twenty-somethings, “Backseat” features Rob Bogue and Josh Alexander, who also wrote the film’s script, as a pair of directionless friends who take to the open road in a bid to outrun the incoming juggernaut of adult responsibility and maybe meet Donald Sutherland. “Backseat”‘s journey to distribution has taken nearly as many turns, considering the film spent two years kicking around the festival circuit. One of its pit stops was at the Austin Film Festival, where it picked up an audience award.
Opens in limited release.

“The Cool School”
Grammy nominated filmmaker Morgan Neville charts the struggle of late ’40’s Los Angeles to transform itself from a poor man’s New York into a city with a thriving and legitimate art scene lead by the likes of Ed Ruscha and Ed Kienholz. Neville lends an artist’s eye to the archival footage, kinetic music and talking heads as he explores the creation of a singularly American art scene that was the first to showcase the likes of Andy Warhol and his soup cans at the innovative Ferus Gallery. Jeff Bridges narrates.
Opens in New York.

“Chapter 27”
After premiering at last year’s Sundance festival, J. P. Schaefer’s debut film about John Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman began a run of misfortune that makes one wonder how it managed to survive. Aside from the unwanted publicity of co-star Lindsay Lohan’s public meltdown and a competing project, “The Killing of John Lennon,” negative reactions to the very idea of a film about Chapman led Lennon fans to establish a boycott website that claimed the film was glorifying a killer. On top of this, reviews out of Sundance weren’t kind. That Peach Arch Entertainment is giving the film a limited run must be of some cold comfort, but “Chapter 27” star Jared Leto has already had his just desserts for the project — the star reportedly bulked up 62 pounds on pints of microwaved ice cream to play the inimitably creepy Chapman.
Opens in limited release.

Following years of more serious fare like “Dancing at the Blue Iguana” and “The Merchant of Venice,” Michael Radford returns to the lighter touch he brought to the Oscar-nominated “Il Postino” with this playful period heist drama. Demi Moore brings her best scowl to the part of Laura Quinn, a disgruntled banking executive who is approached by Michael Caine’s soon-to-retire janitor to trade her glass ceiling in for something a little more valuable. Though her character may protest, Moore herself could be easily swayed — after all, she played Caine’s teenage daughter in a pre-Brat Pack role in the underrated 1984 comedy “Blame it on Rio.”
Opens in limited release

“Hats Off”
A remarkable account of sheer triumph of will, “Hats Off” chronicles 10 years in the life of the bubbly and vivacious Mimi Wendell, a 93-year-old working actress who regularly puts in 14-hour days in New York. Documentary filmmaker Jyll Johnstone does her best to keep pace with the sprightly Mimi as she darts from ballet class to film shoots, to dance class, to auditions, seemingly carried along by nothing more than her can-do attitude, her free spirit and her love of life.
Opens in New York.

“My Brother is an Only Child”
From the co-writers of “The Best of Youth” comes another sprawling Italian epic of brothers divided by political ideals but united by the love of the same woman. Set at the time of the so-called historical compromise, when the extreme ends of the political spectrum tried unsuccessfully to form a working government, the film stars Riccardo Scarmaccio and Elio Germano as the conflicted brothers struggling to reconcile with one another against the backdrop of a troubled country struggling to reconcile with itself and forge a new national identity. Palme D’Or nominee Daniele Luchetti (for 1991’s “The Yes Man”) directs. In Italian with subtitles.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on April 4th.

Writer/director Pierre Salvadori injects a notable dose of French farce into his elegant 2006 re-imagining of the Audrey Hepburn classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” choosing the Hepburn-esque Audrey Tatou to play a flighty socialite who preys upon the wealthy playboys that populate the fashionable French Riviera. “The Valet”‘s Gad Elmaleh is the shy, befuddled waiter who tries to get closer to her heart by beating her at her own game. Just, please, don’t import a version of Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi. In French with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Run, Fat Boy, Run”
Originally set for release last November, this directorial effort from David Schwimmer was postponed — rarely a good sign. In the comedy, Pegg plays Dennis, a directionless loser who decides to turn his life around by running a marathon to win back Libby (Thandie Newton), the girl he jilted at the altar. “Hot Fuzz” fans may be disappointed to see Pegg without his usual sidekick Nick Frost, but Pegg and Schwimmer have teamed up before as well, in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” and the little-seen 2006 comedy “Big Nothing.”
Opens wide.

“Shotgun Stories”
Nominated for a John Cassavetes Award at this year’s Spirit Awards, Jeff Nichols’s distinctly American debut examines two sets of half-brothers who have nothing to cling to except their pride and each other. Michael Shannon, Barlow Jacobs and Douglas Ligon play the estranged fraternity in the film produced by “Snow Angels” director and Nichols’s North Carolina School of the Arts schoolmate David Gordon Green.
Opens in limited release.

After garnering a wealth of critical acclaim and launching the career of Hilary Swank with her highly provocative debut, “Boys Don’t Cry,” writer/director Kimberly Pierce shocked us all a second time by performing one of Hollywood’s great disappearing acts. Nearly ten years later, she returns with a politically charged drama about families realizing the cost of the Iraq War through the perspective of a young soldier (Ryan Phillippe) who is forcibly recalled to active duty by the army at the end of his tour.
Opens wide.

“Superhero Movie”
Dimension Films, the studio that bought us the admittedly funny original “Scary Movie” and then the countless unfunny sequels that followed, proudly hoists aloft the now putrid and rotten corpse of the dead horse so that it may be beaten one more time. “Scary Movie 3” and “4” scribe Craig Mazin rises to the directing ranks for this send-up of superhero films, featuring shameless cameos from the likes of Robert Hays, Brent Spiner and Leslie Nielsen as well as the usual onslaught of dick jokes and potty humor and, one hopes, a reminder of the days when spoof films were funny.
Opens wide.

“Who’s Your Monkey”
Any movie whose IMDb plot keywords are “Dead Body / Vibrator / Monkey” must surely be worth the price of admission. Jason London and “ER”‘s Scott Grimes play childhood friends who accidentally murder a drug dealer while attempting to free his homemade zoo of animals, which have been exploited for amateur porn. Apparently, they appreciate that sort of thing in Florida and at CineVegas, where the film won a grand jury award and an audience award, respectively. Early reviews have said “it’s heartwarming.” “Seinfeld”‘s Wayne Knight and David DeLuise also star.
Opens in limited release.

Inspired by the real life events depicted in the bestselling book “Bringing Down The House,” this marriage of “Good Will Hunting” and “Ocean’s 11” sees a group of MIT math prodigies teaming up to beat the Vegas blackjack tables under the watchful eye of Kevin Spacey’s scheming professor. Australian director Robert Luketic helms this high stakes ride, which may be short on accuracy (since the real story centered around an Asian student played in the film by a very Caucasian Jim Sturgess), but long on the appeal of longshots. Just don’t assume that in real life, Sturgess is a risktaker at the table.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Alexandra,” Cinema Guild, 2007]



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.